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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Press Team In Kremlin Dismissed

A semi-official press agency that sold journalistic access to the Kremlin has been fired. Public Prosecutor Valentin Stepankov said Tuesday.

The agency, Alen, had an office inside the Kremlin headquarters of President Boris Yeltsin's security staff. Journalists wishing to take photographs or film footage inside the Kremlin had to arrange for permission through Alen, which charged a steep price.

"They had a monopoly on all filming in the Kremlin; in this there was a violation", Stepankov said.

"They didn't have the right to work and earn money through commercial activities while being located within the general staff headquarters".

Alen sold rights to film and photograph in and around the Kremlin, starting at $500 an hour to photograph Stalin's tomb behind the Lenin mausoleum, Alen's director, Alexander Kuznetsov, said in an interview in October. Alen also filmed most of Yeltsin's public appearances, and offered the videos to its clients.

In a unique agreement with the Kremlin's Chief Directorate of Security Guards, Alen - consisting of Kuznetsov, commercial director Yelena Sergeyeva, and a third assistant - was allowed to keep a percentage of the profits. They were also granted a Kremlin office.

By Stepankov's ruling, however, any personal gain within the Kremlin was out of bounds.

"All the monies they received went into their own pockets, their own accounts", he said. "By our laws, their existence has been terminated".

Stepankov launched an investigation of Alen in December after articles in The Moscow Times and televised broadcasts by the program Vzglyad sparked Yeltsin to promise the Congress of People's Deputies a formal inquiry.

The investigation did not substantiate allegations that Alen had offered to arrange interviews with the Russian president for expensive hard-currency fees, Stepankov said.

Several Japanese journalists said last autumn that Alen had aggressively marketed access to the president before Yeltsin was scheduled to visit Japan last summer.

According to Yeltsin's former spokesman, Pavel Voshchanov, Alen's connections to the president came through Yeltsin's personal bodyguards.

Stepankov said that the investigation found that Yeltsin was unaware of any improper activities on the part of Alen or his bodyguards.

"The president absolutely did not participate in this", he said.